Good morning everyone, its lovely to be here today and to be part of the service to celebrate the baptism of Ulula.
Baptism is such a special and important step in our Christian journey as we respond to Gods call to follow the example of Jesus Christ, and remember that we are loved by God and have a place with his people.
As I look about the congregation today, it’s a real joy to see so many people supporting the baptism of Ulula. Now I know what I am going to propose is going to make some of you feel slightly uncomfortable, invade on your personal space, and freak others out, but take a moment to look around, see who’s sitting next to you or behind you, and take their hands, and as you do this know that we are one family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are all loved by God, and here to support each other as we travel along our Christian Journey.
For being a Christian is not a simple choice, and its not an easy path, we are challenged daily to live a life of service, to grow in faith, and its faith that allows us to move closer to God.
In our old testament reading today we hear how a widow was going to use the last of her flour and oil to make a meal for herself and her son so they could eat one last time before death took them, but Elijah a total stranger asks her to make him a loaf of bread promising the Lord will not allow the flour and oil to run out until the next rain, and with an extraordinary act of faith the widow agrees.
How many of us in the same situation would act with so much faith, sharing our last meal with a total stranger?
In Galatians we hear how Paul whom had formerly persecuted the Church, now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy, a total turn around in his position, he not only realises that what he has done is so wrong, he owns that wrong doing, he goes out to make a change in the world, he doesn’t know how people are going to react to him having previously been so zealous in his acts of persecuting followers of Christ, but with a true act of faith he preaches the good news.
St. Barnabas was another man of great faith, and today we celebrate his feast day. St. Barnabas was described as a kind, forgiving, encouraging and compassionate man.
Luke sums up his character in the book of Acts , “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Wherever he went, “a great many people were added to the Lord.”
One of my favourite stories is when Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Lord, they were healing the sick and lame, and create such a sensation that the crowds believe that the Gods have returned in human form,
Paul was called Hermes believed to be the messenger of the Gods, and Barnabas was called Zeus, believed to be the father of Gods. They didn’t speak the local language, so were completely unaware of what was happening.
When they finally realize what’s going on they are horrified, they never think for a moment of exploiting the situation, and reject the fame, glamour, and worship, they could have received.
Instead they say. ‘Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that’s in them.’
Turn from these worthless things, these worthless things,
What are these worthless things that Barnabas, was talking about?
In our modern society, they are everywhere, “Oscar wilde defined a cynic as one who knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing.
In the recession we have gone through and are coming out of, but possibly might be going back into, we still haven’t figured out that the richer our country became, the more cynical we grew.
We had put our trust in house prices, banks, and interest free credit. We had created a religion of shopping, and our salvation lay in spending money we didn’t have, to buy things we didn’t need, for the sake of a happiness that didn’t last.
We appear to have moved further away from God and started to worship worthless things “Celebrity”, “Glamour”, “The seasons must have fashion accessory”. We have forgotten the truly valuable commodities of Love, courage, mercy, and the Lord our God. We put ourselves first, our wants, needs, and desires, forgetting the plight of our fellow man.
How different things would be if we followed the example of “The Good Man” Barnabas, putting no faith in himself or the world, but rather in the word of God, he became a lifeline to those who were lost, a ray of light, of hope, of life, and forgiveness, for hundreds of people who needed help.
He was and is an instrument of God, bringing the Good news, that we should turn from these worthless things to the living God who made heaven and earth…’
How encouraging are these words? “Turn to the living God”, as we turn to God we are able to get our direction, as we hand over our troubles, worries, and time, we deepen our relationship with God, we start to hear that inner voice that’s been beaten down within us, and we listen, our prayer life deepens, and we start to discover the things we are doing which hold us back from Gods love
It’s the turn that matters. The gospel says, turn, turn, turn; all the joy of God awaits you.
But its not easy, it’s a daily decision we have to make, a question we face posed by a loving Lord. “Turn”, its about not being distracted, taking time out in our busy lives to spend with the Lord, reviewing our priorities, looking for the good in ourselves and those we meet.
It’s a life of service, not want,
it’s a life of love, not hate,
it’s a life of giving, not greed,
it’s a life of forgiveness, not resentment.
And that’s why its so important to be part of a Christian family, we find like minded people who are ready to help and support us through the good times and bad. We are accepted for who we are, safe in the knowledge that we are loved deeply by God.
‘Turn from these worthless things to the living God who made the heaven and the earth.’ Put your faith in the Lord.
Turn afresh to Christ every day, seek him out and put him at the centre of your being. And that’s what I trust we will all do, to the end of our days.